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The Great Escape

This week I thought escapes from what, in my opinion, is the most difficult position to escape from- The Scarf Hold aka Kaza Gatame. I know some people would disagree but for me this is the hardest.  I’ve thought about why that is and I think it’s because your opponent doesn’t have to release any of his pressure in scarf hold when he begins to attack with submissions.  In mount or side control, in many cases he must release some of the pressure to begin attacking which allows you some opportunity to begin your escapes.  Not always of course. Also I have a lot of trouble with guys just sitting on my hip, and a lot of the time I think this is with ex-Judo players turned BJJers who are quite content to stay there for as long as necessary.  That’s good top policy of course- hold top and fatigue your opponent until he makes a mistake trying to get you off.

Like every escape from bottom, the escape we drilled this week starts with proper posture that stops your opponent from settling in the position. having a good start point in a bottom position is like starting at J instead of A.  It’s still a long way from Z but it beats running through the whole alphabet.  Getting your elbows tight and your frames in place before starting your escapes makes your opponent feel less comfortable on top and prevents them from settling, and keeping that good posture as you execute the escape means you won’t be leaving some stray arm or collar grip behind for your partner to submit you with.  Proper posture prevents piss poor positioning you might say. Once your posture is right, whatever escape you are doing, it’s all in the hips, as Tubs from Happy Gilmore would say.

We had two vital movements in the escape- the first is the bump or bridge, the second is the reverse shrimp.  We do both if these extensively in the warm ups and I think there’s a tendency to go through the motions with the movements we do, if not try to avoid them altogether.  I could do any number of different types of dynamic warm up (and I’ve been through most types) but I believe that if you’re doing 1 hour of BJJ, then that hour should be almost 100% BJJ. That’s why I try to incorporate movements from the game we play into every warm up. I think it’s key to try these movements without anyone resisting you, but at the same time I don’t want to eat into instruction time too much.  So we warm up with them. Well, some people warm up with them.  Others prefer to arrive late, or do half of them down the mat and then stop.

Now what should happen is that everyone who has attended the class from the first minute will arrive at the point when we’re learning the technique already familiar with the movement involved. I usually put some emphasis on the warm up movement to ensure everyone is familiar with the goal of the movement so that when we come to utilising it everyone will be ready to go.  Of course some people struggle with the movements at first and maybe won’t even have it by the end of the class, but they’ll use it in next week’s warm up and the week after that too, and hopefully after a few weeks of doing it, they’ll start to do it more naturally in live sparring. In fact, here’s a video from Friday night’s warm up.  Grant and Aaran have been drilling this all week, so they came in on Friday and instead of doing jumping jacks or running around, they’re able to get right down to work and use this as a warm-up drill.

And now the obligatory MMA paragraph.

Pretty much every time I teach escapes, one of the guys pulls me aside and asks “will this work for MMA?”  The short answer is yes.  Every escape works for MMA, as your opponent still has two legs and arms (let’s assume 4 limbed opponents as a constant here) and the same principles of scarf hold will apply.  The problem is that while you’re escaping, they’ll be hitting you in the face.  Yes, that complicates things.  Here’s my central philosophy on bottom for MMA.

1. Don’t hold on.  No matter where you are; mount, scarf, side control, keep trying to escape by maintaining good posture and moving your hips. Grabbing your opponent holds him on to you, does nothing to improve your position, fatigues your arms and usually they just break the grip and hit you anyway.

2. Posture is everything.  If you were on top, would you prefer to be hitting a guy on his back or on his side in good posture.  No need to write in I already know the answer.  So posture.  If not for the escape then just to make your opponent less comfortable on top.

3. Escape Escape Escape. You are on bottom. Life already sucks.  You’ve already made a balls of something and the longer you stay down here, the more bad news is coming.  So don’t hold on to his head or grab around him looking imploringly at the referee (though there is a time for that too), get out of there.  Will you get hit? I’d say so, but you’re in a fight so I think that’s a given. But attacking your opponent’s base in mount position for example is a more effective way of preventing him from hitting you repeatedly and hard then just covering your face and hoping for the best. and as a bonus, do it right and you escape.

They’re not hard and fast rules, they’re just a way of dealing with a position that frightens a lot of people.  Whenever people in my MMA team talk about the move to C or B class where you can get hit on the ground, this is the one thing that concerns them the most.  I understand why but here’s the thing, I’ve been finished by GnP once before and whenever someone asks me what it was like all I can say is… it’s not so bad.  Honestly it’s not.  The worst thing about it is the frustration of trying to escape and not being able to because the guy keeps punching you.  I’m far more respectful of a punch thrown on the feet, starting at the guy’s toes and moving through his hips and torso, picking up speed as it heads towards my face than I am of a punch travelling a few feet with limited lower body involvement.  That being said, the really good GnP guys get tremendous force from their upper body.

That’s it for now.  I’m going to run through the things I just spoke about again in my class this evening so maybe I’ll see you there.

See you on the mats,



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